When scripture is translated into another language, the translation can introduce another set of rules muddling the meaning. But, as in everything, there is a good side. The translation can also give me a different perspective.
“Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.” [Zephaniah 2:3, New King James Version]
Reading the Book of Zephaniah and the commentary has brought clarity to the intent of the book. These tools helped us understand our Prophet better. We got a glimpse of what was happening in Israel and the world at the time. And we received understanding in who God the Father is to us. But my one little question remains unanswered.
Since I was a child, I’ve thought of God as decisive. He knows what will happen. He knows us down to the hairs on our head. Since when did God deal in maybes? I have a hard time wrapping my head around God saying “it may be…” Is this an issue with the translation? Or am I refusing to understand something. Yes, I am a lot like the proverbial ‘dog with a bone.’ It is time to check this out.
I went to my handy online bible search site. I brought up Zephaniah 2:3 and clicked on “all English translations.” If I counted right, there were fifty-two translations listed on the webpage. I started going through them: may be, may be, perhaps, may be… might—oh that one’s different… All in all I found twenty-eight translations used ‘May be,’ Twenty-two used ‘perhaps,’ one ‘might,’ and finally one ‘if so be.’ Huh! Well I find myself a little disappointed. And I’m not sure I like the answer on this one.
I have one more shot. If you are thinking I don’t give up easily, you would be right. It is time to be bring out the BIG Book! It is The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible Expanded with the Best of Vine’s Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words by James Strong LL.D, S.T.D. This book is eleven by nine inches and two inches thick. It covers every word of the King James Version. Let’s open it up and see what we find.
I find the words “may be” are derived from the Hebrew word, ûlay (oo-lah-ee). In Zephaniah 2:3 ûlay means: “peradventure; perhaps; suppose; if; less.” Strong’s states “(1) This word meaning peradventure or perhaps usually expresses a hope…” or “(2) Elsewhere ûlay expresses fear or doubt…”
I admit I am uneasy with the answer. In the times we are living in, I find this downright scary. I confess I never wanted to be a martyr. My will to live is strong, but I cannot deny my God. I understand from scripture that God has given all people free will. This makes for a dangerous and imperfect world.
Sometimes different translations will clear up confusion. And there are times, like now, when I must accept that the meaning is clear. I may not like it and I may not want to believe it. But, Scripture is not based I what I like. I want all believers to be sheltered and hidden. I do not want to see persecution or hatred in our world. But it is all around us, especially since the virus crisis and political forces have moving against God and His peoples.
Here the Prophet says “may be.” There is a chance we will be hidden, a hope. Just like life here in this world, there is not a guarantee in this verse. Some of us maybe hidden and as we know from news around the world, others are not. I cannot explain why. We cannot explain how some survive a horrific situation, or disease, while others do not. God has not revealed the answers yet. We must have faith that He knows best.
My dear friends, I pray: Heavenly Father, I lift your people up to You. We walk in treacherous times. Show us the truth and Your way as the world around us shifts and changes. May we remain steadfast in You. Deliver us from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. Cover us with Your feathers, for we take refuge under Your wings; You are our shield and buckler. For You promise we will not be afraid of the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness. A thousand may fall at our side, and ten thousand at our right hand. But it shall not come near us. With our eyes we shall look and see the reward of the wicked. For we have made You our LORD, our refuge, even the Most High our habitation.* In Jesus’ name amen. In the name of the Father and the Son and The Holy Spirit, amen.
This is the last segment on how I find answers from God. I also seek God’s face through prayer and fasting. I hope you enjoyed this series. This process may not work for you. That is okay. I understand things through words and touch. This is how God gets through to me. Allow God to get through to you in Your own unique way. He loves you that much. If you are so inclined, share how God gives you answers to your questions. He waits for us to seek Him. Keep walking with Him in love and faith.
*The Prayer is adapted from Psalm 91:3-9
P.S. If you follow my posts, thank you for joining my walk with the Lord. The walk this year for all of us has been difficult. I personally have not been able to keep on schedule with my writing and posts. After things “fell apart” for my family last August, I am easing my way from mourning to hope. With faith and prayer, we have made some decisions recently that look like I will be able to begin the writing journey I have been longing to take. In the coming weeks I will fill you in the details along with the Lord’s insights. I hope to visit with you here more often as a path opens for me and my family. Many prayers and peace, Milly.
2 thoughts on “Translating Understanding”
I have loved this series on study. It’s true each of us have our own way of study but your study of words is Challenging and delightful. This one today is revealing. Thanks for all the hard work you put into the study Of just 3 little words (“it may be”). I don’t think I would have ever caught that! Keep up the good work.
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Thank you Gayle!
You nailed it. I am curious about words and like to know why. God is patient with me and gently leads me to answers. Even the ones I don’t like. 😊 I am blessed that you enjoyed my journey into “3 little words.” He is so Great to give us mysteries to solve and understanding. Many Blessings Milly.